Aside Posted on
The past month has been particularly busy, as Spring is finally here in full force and I’m happily spending as much time outdoors as possible while squeezing a ton of activity into each day. The sun stretching across so many more hours of the day means my energy is renewed and I’ve successfully sloughed off the winter urge to hibernate. I even got talked into competing in my first rock climbing comp, The Ring of Fire held by Central Rock Gym (my favorite Boston-area indoor rock gym).
It was a bit of a last-minute decision as I went in to climb the Monday before the comp and the woman working the front desk really encouraged me to sign up. I didn’t realize most comps have a Women’s Beginner’s division. I had already been planning on coming to watch the pros climb, so I figured why not give it a go. All-in-all I didn’t do terribly well (flashed the first wall, fell on the other two) but I had a lot of fun and learned a ton. I’d definitely do it again! I’m really not a competitive sports person so it was quite a surprise that I both did it and enjoyed it. Also, watching the pro finals that night was outstanding. Ashima Shirashi and Delaney Miller blew my mind, and I was seriously impressed by everyone who climbed.
The real reason I was drawn to blog today though is to address some information that’s making the rounds about Vibram Fivefingers. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, then you may know I started blogging when I first did the Couch-2-5k program back in the Spring of 2010. I had always hated running and used the excuse of “bad knees” to get me out of even thinking about it. I was encouraged to try running with C25K and Fivefingers as I read there were benefits of running barefoot. The biggest benefits for me were that it encouraged using a more natural stride (mid-sole/fore-foot strike instead of heel strike, working on pushing up/being springier) and increased awareness of the environment (eyes learn to scan the terrain to avoid stepping on sharp objects). I personally experienced both of those pros and also found it was the first time in my life I could run without knee pain and shin splints. I also enjoyed running for the first time as it felt like playing when my feet could really feel the textures of mud, sand, gravel, etc. It was such a positive experience for me that I’ve bough three pair of Fivefingers in the past four years and I use them for running, hiking, paddling and swimming. I even just ran my first 5K in them last weekend (note, I just started walking at this point so that heel coming down is not my normal running stride):
While I’m obviously a fan of VFF, I also realize they’re not for everyone. Depending on your foot shape and bone structure they may not be for you. I’ve also seen quite a few people injure themselves due to switching to VFFs and not weaning into them properly. VFF shoes use muscles in the feet, ankles and calves that you may not be used to using on a regular basis. This isn’t true of just VFF shoes, it’s true of beginning any new physical activity or picking up an activity after months without it. For example, how many of us know people who have become injured after heading to the gym and doing the same weight routine they did four years ago when they haven’t touched a weight in months?
So to me, it was no surprise when this research study came out citing the potential for increased foot bone marrow edema in those transitioning to VFF shoes. The thing is, some people are seriously misinterpreting this study to mean VFFs are terrible and horrible and, as one post mentioned, “will fuck up your feet”. Whereas in reality the study clearly states: “CONCLUSION: Runners interested in transitioning to minimalist running shoes, such as Vibram FiveFingers, should transition very slowly and gradually to avoid potential stress injury in the foot.” Well, that makes sense.
But let’s take a moment to break down the study. It involved 36 experienced runners, 17 in the control group ran in their normal shoes, while 19 transitioned to Vibrams. The transition plan sounded reasonable. Runners continue their normal running routines (which are 16+ miles) and use Vibrams for 1-2 miles to start and gradually increase. The thing is, the study gets a little wishy-washy from there. “It should be noted that some subjects stopped logging their runs prior to the 10th week of training and 4 of the 19 Vibram subjects did not document their training at all, though they did participate in both pre- and post- testing and therefore, were included in the statistical analysis in this study. This lack of documentation presents a limitation to this study.” That’s kind of a big strike here. The people running the study also don’t note how runs were tracked. It’s alluded to that the runners all self-document, which leaves quite a bit of room for error. I was surprised they didn’t have them at least track their run with a smartphone app. Not that those are perfect, but it would be a bit more scientific than giving them a logbook and sending them on their way.
The study goes on to explain that they used a MRI before and after the study with each included participant to check for bone and soft tissue damage. There was a noticeable increase in edema and a small incidence of stress fractures with those using VFF shoes. Incidences were higher in women than in men. This is certainly concerning and not something to brush off. I do personally feel this warrants more study, since the control group was small and there were issues with the data collected, but their conclusion draws upon common sense.
“Although most runners will not know about the presence or degree of bone marrow edema, our results suggest that if a runner transitioning to VFF feels pain, they should modify their running regimen.” Yes, this. They also concluded that if you are a long-distance runner, it’s advisable to transition over a period of time greater than 10 weeks. I’m totally down with those conclusions. Not only do these rules apply to running with VFFs, but they’re common sense rules for exercise in general.
Rebecca’s Simple Rules to Avoiding Injury
- If you feel pain make modifications to your exercise.
- Transition slowly into new exercise routines.
- Properly warm up the body before engaging in physical activity.
- ALWAYS stretch and cool down after physical activity.
- Support your body with proper nutrition to fuel your workouts and support your recovery.
And lastly, since our society is so friggin’ litigious, Vibram Fivefingers was sued for making unsubstantiated claims about their footwear (basically saying it was a healthier way to run). So if you purchased VFFs after March 2009 you may be eligible to collect from this class action suit. So if that applies to you and you’d like to be a part of it, keep an eye on this page for updates on how to register. For the record, VFF still claim they did nothing wrong, so this is a settlement, not an official ruling.
As for me, I’m going to continue rocking my Vibram Fivefingers. And I’m especially excited to use them for paddling season!
I started week two of C25K this week. So far it’s noticeably easier this time around and I feel that’s a testament to how my level of fitness has increased over the years. It’s also a huge help that I’ve kept up with a daily yoga practice. My legs were sore last week but daily stretching with yoga, plus a longer class on Thursday night, has really helped make the soreness barely noticeable. This week I also upped my speed in half of the segments that I’m running. The program this week has me alternating running for 1.5 mins and walking for 2 mins for a total of about 29 minutes. I was excited to break the two mile mark yesterday and will try to up my speed when I run again tomorrow. I will say I’m missing my HiiT workouts. I had to shift things around to make room for running so I’m taking a break from HiiT and Kettlebell 2-3 days/wk to running 3 days/wk. While running is great to build my cardio, it’s also a bit boring (especially when compared to HiiT), and it’s not dynamic so it’s uber-focused on legs and core so the rest of my body is just happy I’m continuing to climb and do yoga to keep it active.
I reached a new height in climbing today by killing a 5.9+ route. Regular climbers may not find this impressive, but for me it was a big deal. I specifically chose the route because it had very few jugs and was mostly slopers, pinchers and globes. I hate all of those, though slopers and I have become friendly lately. I’ll also admit the two globes thrown into that route proved to be really nice resting points. But pinchers? We’re still not cool, pinchers. For the non-climbers that read my blog I will eventually explain more about those different holds so sorry if you feel left in the dark for now.
I realized it’s been a long time since I’ve posted a new smoothie recipe, so here’s my current favorite:
Pineapple Mango Smoothie:
- 1/2 cup vanilla coconut milk (recipe here)
- 1/2 cup pomegranate juice
- 1 tbsp flax seed (if your blender won’t pulverize this buy it ground)
- handful fresh baby spinach
- 1/2 cup frozen mangos
- 1/2 cup frozen pineapple
Blend it up in the mixer of your choice! I still love my Vitamix and make smoothies for myself and my partner every morning. If you’d like to indulge in the rest of the meal pictured above, make yourself some Scrambled Eggs with Spinach!
Scrambled Eggs with Spinach (yes, this may sound simple but I’m posting the recipe because I believe my scrambled eggs are recipe-worthy)
- two eggs (preferably free-range organic, even better if they’re local)
- 1 tbsp unsweetened coconut milk (recipe here, omit vanilla and sweetener)
- handful baby spinach
- 1 tbsp coconut oil (or fat of your choosing)
- salt and pepper to taste
- Melt oil in pan over medium-low
- Beat eggs with milk, salt and pepper until slightly frothy.
- Add eggs to pan and move continuously. This is the biggest trick to making light, fluffy eggs; keep them moving constantly. I like to use a heat-safe silicon spatula to keep folding them in on each other.
- When eggs are barely firm (maybe 20-30 seconds in the pan) add the spinach.
- Continue moving constantly until they reach desired firmness and spinach has wilted.
Now have your smoothie and scramble and go take over the world! 😉
In spite of it being 0ºF at my doorstep this morning, I’m thinking towards Spring! This year I signed up for my first official 5K. For anyone who’s been following my blog for a while, you know I began running back in April of 2010 using the Couch-to-5K program with the Get Running App. I also chose to run close to barefoot with Vibram Five Fingers (first KSOs, then the Treksports and now the Spyridon LS). I’ve continued running off and on since then but I generally don’t run much in the winter because I’m neither a fan of treadmills nor am I a fan of being cold. I also honestly don’t enjoy running as much as I enjoy climbing or yoga or HiiT workouts, so it tends to fall near the bottom of my list.
All that said, my school is involved in a 5K so I’ve decided to support them by participating. This is a big deal for me because I really don’t enjoy crowds so while I love obstacle courses and trail running, I haven’t been competitive about it. While I probably don’t technically need the C25K program this time around, since I’ve maintained good physical fitness, I want to take it slow so I can work on my form and rebuild any running-specific muscles that I may have been neglecting in the winter months. Unfortunately, this means using my treadmill right now (at least until all this %&*@# snow melts), but that does give me the ability to maintain consistent speeds and challenge myself to go faster in my runs. I specifically like to alternate running speeds, which is not part of the C25K regimen, because it both helps keep me engaged and builds better cardio by keeping my body guessing.
In addition to the running, I’m working on leveling up in climbing! I’ve been climbing off and on for a couple years now but became a member at Central Rock Gym in January and have been hitting the walls 2-3 times per week since then. It’s amazing how addictive it is. I’ve found myself devouring climbing videos on YouTube and the more I watch others climb the more confident I’m getting in my own climbing. Above you’ll see my first bouldering route with a heel hook (which was super fun!) and since then I’ve been working more on my technique and was stoked to kill a couple V2’s at the gym yesterday!
My top roping has also improved. I went from climbing a 5.6-5.7 to now successfully completing 5.9’s. Once I get confident with the 5.9/5.10 range I can begin learning lead climbing, which means I’ll be responsible for hooking in my own rope on several preset lead carabiners along the route. This will help prepare me for outdoor climbing, which I’m hoping to try this summer.
For a girl who’s afraid of heights I’ve come a long way! The thing I really gain by climbing is when the confidence I have in myself is greater than my fear of heights. I’m not afraid of falling when I know I can hold myself up. Obviously, this can be applied to many facets of life, which I’m finding is the real thing I seek with physical fitness. Yoga teaches me to find moments of calm even in the most stressful situations. High intensity trainings and climbing both help me gain confidence in my body and mind and challenge me to push further.
They’re not kidding when they say “strong is the new beautiful”. 🙂
Fall is definitely shifting it’s way into the Green Mountains. Most of this week was cool and drizzly, though the sun fought off the fog to give us some glorious sunsets. Unfortunately, when I ran on Thursday the sun didn’t even poke its head out; it was damp, foggy and cool. I think I’m really going to enjoy running in the Fall. While I’ll miss the warm sun that drove me to jump in the river right after a run, the cool temperatures are much more enjoyable to run in and the grey haze caused me to turn off my iPod and wrap myself in the introspective sounds of the change of season.
I ran along the Stowe Quiet Path and found Fartleks are especially fun there because there are so many twist, turns and hills that sprinting feels like being on a roller coaster. Toby had even more fun than I did thanks to us being there at an unusually dog-populated time of day. There was a new doggie friend around every curve. Despite having some issues getting motivated to go out in the blah weather, once I got moving I felt a million times better. My tight shoulders loosened up, the stress knots in my stomach released and my body felt springy and playful. It’s easy to come up with excuses to not run, but once I get going I always remember how much I enjoy it and why I want to keep it up.
Speaking of the introspective quality of Fall, I’m going to once again usurp my space here to talk about something unrelated to running, but greatly important to me. For those in the US, today is the anniversary of the September 11th attack on the World Trade Center. For the past few years, when this date rolls around I really don’t give it a ton of thought leading up to 9/11. I’m much less emotional when listening to newscasts and I usually feel that the day can come and go without effecting me. I’m wrong; it always finds a way to get me. This morning, when I logged into Facebook for my morning internet voyeurism, I watched a remembrance video that a friend had posted and I totally teared up. Between losing people I knew and losing hundreds of people I didn’t personally know along with losing a skyline that had marked my childhood, I can’t be unaffected by this day.
They say everyone remembers where they were on 9/11. I remember it with vivid clarity. I heard about it early in the morning as I was driving to class. By the time I got to the art building I found the classrooms were empty and people were surrounding televisions set up in common areas and crying. I was in school down in Dallas and I couldn’t reach my parents or brother back in NY; I couldn’t reach anyone in NY. Then I realized that I had left a house of about a dozen sleeping friends and our mutual friend was in NYC visiting his girlfriend. I drove back and woke everyone up and we just watched the news, horrified.
I remember two other big details from that day. I remember the lines at the gas station as we all tried to fill up our cars after the news warned us that some stations were gauging prices and sure enough we saw prices like $5/gal so we waited patiently at the station that hadn’t changed their signs yet. Then, we all drove out to the lake to sit and watch the Dallas skyline without any planes flying overhead. It was eerie and peaceful.
Now, almost a decade later, here we are still at war and while I do believe this war has more facets than just a fight about oil, that black gold continues to hold us hostage. I’ve watched several documentaries on the oil and gas industries in the past few months and while I overall feel powerless to free myself from Big Oil, I made a move to greatly reduce my consumption by trading in my 2007 Subaru Outback (which I loved) for a 2010 Jetta Sportwagen TDI that will run B5 Biodiesel. In many ways that’s a small step, but it’s a step I could afford.
Just about any diesel made in the past 10 years or so can run biodiesel without any modifications (as long as it has nylon gaskets instead of rubber, which all modern diesels do). You can use the same tank and switch between biodiesel and regular diesel without issue (though if you live in a cool climate you’ll probably want to stick with B5-B20 as B100 will gel at a higher temp than regular diesel). Now that biodiesel can be made from very fast-growing algae, that when farmed next to oil refineries actually helps clean up the C02 emissions, it’s very sustainable and practical. It’s also completely street legal, though it’s recommended to only buy from commercial pumps that are ASTM-rated. Keep in mind that biodiesel is not pure vegetable oil; it’s a mixture of plant-based oil, Methanol and Sodium Hydroxide which creates a substance that looks and feels like petrol-based diesel.
I first went on Craigslist and checked local places for used diesels, but the pickings were slim to none. I ended up going with the Sportwagen based on its great reviews, but after quite a bit of research it’s clear that the 2009-2011 VW TDIs can’t take 100% biodiesel due to the new DPF filter. The new filter does a phenomenal job of keeping emissions incredibly low on the new “clean diesels” and it also adds to the great fuel economy (I’m getting 44-51mpg!). However, biodiesel has a higher flash point and it’s also a solvent so it can initially cause the filter to become saturated faster (this is not an issue once biodiesel is used regularly) and it could cause the filter to not burn off the buildup efficiently. In the long-run this can theoretically decrease engine performance and lead to needing oil changes more often.
However, hope it not lost! The 2009-2011 TDIs are still warranty approved for B5. B5 is only a 5% biodiesel blend, but it turns out I can easily get B5 locally (thanks to Bourne’s Energy being awesome) and it’s still a positive start. Between that and the vast improvements with the fuel efficiency of the diesel engine and incredibly low emissions, as someone who drives close to 30k miles/year, I’ve lowered my carbon footprint markedly. While I’m not about to throw a big, “Eff You Big Oil!” party, it’s a start.
These small changes are things that we all have to individually do if we hope that big changes will arise. I did something small that I could afford, what can you do? Did you know that if your home is heated with oil you can probably switch to biofuel without modifications (barring potentially swapping rubber for nylon)? My small local fuel provider in the middle of Vermont offers biofuel. If you stick your head out to see what alternatives are out there you might be surprised.
Gasland (not about oil, but about natural gas)
A Crude Awakening (watch online free)
Oil, Smoke and Mirrors (watch online free)
Tedx OilSpill (I watched the event live but you can watch it online free at that link; it was an all-day conference so it’s 8+ hours of video regarding the Gulf Oil Spill)
Fuel, which sealed the deal on the car issue for me.
It seems like the last two weeks really flew by and I apologize for the lack of an entry last weekend. I have an admission that I’ll just get off my chest right off the bat; part of why I didn’t write last weekend was that I ended up not running during the crazy heat wave we had in VT. With temps into the 100’s and incredibly heavy humidity it wasn’t exactly appealing. When that was mixed with a holiday and then family in town I let the excuses pile up and I decided to find alternate sources of activity for the week.
It’s easy to make excuses. I was reminded of the new Nike commercial, “No Excuses”. I’m sure we can all relate:
However, my week was not a bust. I had a full practice of massage clients and I swam almost every day. The highlight of the week was hiking to Cady’s Falls with my pup. Cady’s Falls is a natural waterfall and river carved out of a rock formation in Morrisville, my home town. I had heard about it but kept looking in the wrong places (though that did help me find a nice swimming hole on the Lamoille River). The hike was gorgeous. The first quarter mile the path is surrounded by raspberry bushes and I snacked as I walked towards the river. I learned later that I could have walked down the river to get to the waterfall, which would have been far less challenging than the road I chose.
I veered left up a path and headed on a steep hike upwards. I ended up crossing paths with a couple who told me I was headed in the right direction so I kept going until I found the waterfall…and I was above it. Two men swam below and, despite the loud wooshing sounds of the falls, I could hear one say, “Look, she’s up there!” Obviously, I had not taken the “standard” path to get to the falls; though the path was well-traveled enough that I don’t really get points for originality.
After casing things out I stashed my belongings behind a rock above the falls and I slowly scooted myself down slippery rocks at the edge of the falls. Since I didn’t risk bringing electronics down with me, I have no pictures of the beauty, but it really was a sight. The base of the falls opened up to a deep swimming area that was almost ice-cold; much colder than the rivers I’d been swimming in. However, given the heat and humidity it felt so good!
Toby ended up jumping down the falls. I didn’t get to witness this but the reaction of the two men who saw him jump was pretty stellar. We played around for a while and then I started scoping out the banks of the river to see how we could get back up. That’s when I realized there was no safe way up. We’d have to go back the way we came which meant climbing up the waterfall.
My Vibram Fivefingers were such an asset on this venture. I definitely took my time, but I had no problem scaling the rocks back up to the top of the falls. Toby, on the other hand, took some coaxing. He was scared, and I was nervous that he might get hurt but I wanted to let him try it before hiking down and rescuing him. I stood at the top of the falls and called to him. He anxiously ran all around trying to find another way up until he came to the same conclusion I did. I could see when he made the decision to try to climb up the falls, it took all his puppy courage. He did a great job climbing up the rocks and only had one paw slip. My dog is awesome!
Truthfully, I don’t think he would have been able to do it if I hadn’t been running with him and building up his strength in the past few month. To be honest, I don’t know if I would have either. Running has brought me confidence in areas that yoga, weigh lifting and aerobics have not. Running encourages me to be adventurous and that sense of adventure crosses over into my hiking and swimming experiences. I feel not only in shape and physically strong, but I feel a strong mind-body connection and an organic push to be in motion.
Wow, I’ve yammered on so much that I barely have time to write about the running I actually did this week. While many Vermonters are still complaining that we’re in a heat wave, as soon as the temps dipped back into the 80’s I was ready to hit the trail and I was back on schedule for this whole week.
Monday’s run was such a relief. I thought getting back on the trail for the first day might seem arduous but it was anything but. As soon as I started my first sprint through the field I realized how much I missed it. The runs were some of my fastest, but the speed-walking parts were slow as the raspberries and blackberries along the path are ripe and I just had to steal a few bites. By the time I finished I was covered in sweat and Toby and I jumped right into the river which was warm and wonderful. I just floated there for a while and let the current take me. Have I mentioned just how much I love Vermont this time of year?
Friday was less amazing but still fun. It was extremely humid and I thought I was timing my run perfectly to be out during a downpour. Unfortunately, while I managed to stretch during the downpour, it really turned into a sprinkling while I ran so it was not the nice relieving feeling I was looking for. I also had to forgo my swim as I had an unusually high workload for a Friday. Oh well, I’ll certainly be swimming today and I’ll be back on the trail again tomorrow!
I’m going to risk the tl;dr labeling and add one more soapbox paragraph. The only really discouraging thing about my explorations of Cady’s Falls and my Friday run was running into litter. Cady’s Falls had empty beer bottles and soda cans strewn about (I’m definitely bringing a trash bag with me next time I head there). Yesterday began an event on the Mad River Path called “Story Walk”. It’s a really cute concept in which pages of a children’s book are laminated and posted on the path so as you walk you can read the story. Good to promote reading and exercise, I love the idea! I’m not 100% sure this was related, but along the parts of the path that had the story there was a ton of silver glitter littered all over the path. I was shocked. Who the hell would pour non-biodegratable shards of reflective plastic all along the path?! Anyone who’s been to a rave knows how freaking hard it is to clean glitter off of anything, let alone an outdoor trail! I’m planning on complaining to the town (something I rarely do, but this really bothers me) and I encourage anyone else who uses and enjoys The Mad River Path to do the same.
Happy running, swimming, hiking, jumping and anything else fun and outdoorsy you’re up to this week! Yay, summer!
Friday brought gorgeous sun and relatively mild temps to the Mad River Valley. I chose to run after work and while the humidity was slightly higher than I would have liked, it was a night-and-day difference from my Amazon-esque experience on Monday.
My biggest roadblock in this run was shear exhaustion from working a double-shift the day/night before for a server upgrade. I was running (literally) on about four hours of sleep and for a Friday it was a pretty darn busy workday. Despite the grogginess, my run was pretty awesome. The path was busier than usual but I was joined by a few other people running with their dogs and Toby made plenty of new buddies on our journey.
The river was almost back to normal and I took a better comparison shot (both with the iPhone). Keep in mind that the river can get 2-4′ lower than where it is, but when you consider that the two pics were only taken four days apart it’s pretty amazing (click for bigger image). I’d also like to give a quick shout-out to RunKeeper‘s Pro App, which has the ability to take pictures right from within the app, which are then automatically added to the activity map and transferred to the RunKeeper website. I love this feature!
Aside from the run, I had two awesome experiences with my Vibram Fivefinger KSOs this weekend. I headed to Jeffersonville both Saturday and Sunday to swim in one of the gorgeous swimming holes along the Lamoille River. Saturday I decided to adventure through Cambridge after my acupuncture appointment; mostly to avoid going back through Stowe Village which was swamped with tourists for the holiday, but also so I could pick up some Brown and Jenkin’s coffee and Boyden Valley Rhubarb Wine. I had two goals in mind: find a cute random place to eat and a nice place where Toby and I could swim. I believe I found both:
As you can see from the picture above, Toby and I chose an area of the swimming hole that was mostly all rock. To the right of us was a more populated swimming hole/portage area with a real parking lot. Given the heat and the holiday weekend it was full of a mix of tourists and locals dragging in their kayaks and canoes. I felt pretty smart finding a pull-off just upstream of the main area; while I was still fairly close to the action, the portage was blocked from sight by a bend in the river and everyone was headed with the current in the opposite direction. It left me feeling like I was on a private stretch of this gorgeous river.
The reason my little swimming area was practically abandoned is that to get to the river one has to maneuver some semi-steep and uneven rocks. I wouldn’t call it challenging, but it was important to be sure-footed (as a friend of mine found out the next day when she totally bit it climbing down). My Vibrams were perfect for the occasion. I felt like I had a nice firm grip on the rocks and it made walking around the riverbed easy and smooth.
A quick note on the picture above: that rock that Toby is standing on is perfect for diving. It jets at least 12′ into the water; as Toby discovered when he fell in the first time. It also happened to be a great sitting rock as it’s recliner-shaped. I hung out there for quite a while with my legs dangling into the water. While it wasn’t quite as awesome as our Sunday excursion, lying in tubes on the river for two hours, it was still pretty darn awesome.
I hope you all had a good Independence Day or Canada Day (or just a good weekend for those not celebrating). I’m enjoying one more holiday day off and then will be getting back on a trail either tomorrow or Wednesday. We’re getting unseasonably warm temperatures in Vermont for the next few days (90-95ºF) so it’s really going to take some motivation to get out there but I can do it! That means you can too. 😛